Enthusiasm – The Extra that Makes a Difference


Do you feel excited today?  Are you excited today? There is a difference.  There are many people who are not enthusiastic about life unless they "feel" something.  There are others that are enthusiastic about life whether they are having a good day or a bad day.  Which one are you? Excitement about life and enthusiasm is not a feeling; it is a choice. Like so many things in life, it is not just a matter of whether you can or you can't, it is a matter of whether you will or you won't!  There are however two at least "emotional brakes" which really do hold some people back from an enthusiastic life: childhood suppression and adult peer pressure.

  • Childhood suppression Many of us were trained to control our excitement, passion and enthusiasm when we were children. Adult commands such as "sit down and keep quiet", "don't speak unless you are spoken to", "children should be seen but not heard", and "big boys don't cry" are all too familiar echoes from the past for some of us.  
    We need to learn to bury the past, otherwise the past may still continue to bury our enthusiasm for life. Try to see the world through the natural and unbridled enthusiasm of children's eyes rather than through adult eyes.
  • Adult peer pressure In Australian culture, it is ‘un-cool', ‘immature' and ‘nerdish' to get too excited about things.  We learned this lesson well at high school.  There is little in this world that is meaningful, lasting and significant, that has been accomplished without enthusiasm, commitment and perseverance.

Misunderstandings and definitions

Enthusiasm is not about being wild and crazy and putting on party hats.  It is not the sole domain of the extrovert or the sanguine.   Neither is it about being boisterous, loud or obnoxious.  Enthusiasm is the excitement in a person's face and eyes. It can be conveyed even in a whisper.  My dictionary uses words like eager interest, zeal, inspiration, passion, ardour, and fervour to explain enthusiasm.  The English word enthusiasm is derived from the Greek word enthousiasmos or en-theos, which means "inspired" (from en + theos (God) - ie, "in God"). For me it is "God within".

Great writers and philosophers have had much to say about the benefits of enthusiasm. For example:

  • "Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm." (Emerson)
  • "A person can accomplish almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm." (Dale Carnegie)
  • Thomas Edison gives further weight to the importance of enthusiasm by saying "If the only thing we ever leave our kids is the quality of enthusiasm, we will have given them an estate of incalculable value."
  • Walter Chrysler believed that if he had two people of equal ability, he would employ the person with the most enthusiasm, because enthusiastic people get things done.
  • Many years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote a little booklet called The Little Known Secret of Success. It was about enthusiasm. He said that it's not education, it's not connections, it's not the way you dress. The people who go the farthest in life are excited about something.

So, whatever you do in your life, (marriage, relationships, job), add enthusiasm to it and observe the difference.   I'm sure you will be more successful.

Eleven Steps to Enthusiasm

Dr John Maxwell has outlined a number of steps to help us be more enthusiastic. Eleven of these steps are set out below.

Step 1. Understand the value of enthusiasm.

If I were to offer you something that will give you more value to life, more energy, give the people around you more energy, draw people to you, and increase your job effectiveness would you want it?  Absolutely!  Furthermore, ask yourself the question, what person is it that you greatly admire?  Do you realise that approximately 90% of responses to this question are to do with attitude and character, while only 10% of responses are about skill?  So, value enthusiasm and treat it with great respect because it adds value to your life and to the lives of those around you.

Step 2.  Take responsibility for your own enthusiasm

Have you ever envied the way some people are so enthusiastic about life?  Maybe you have quietly had thoughts like these:

  • "I wish I could wake up each day like you."
  • "I wish I could get excited about life like you."
  • "I wish I had a smile like you."
  • "I wish I could encourage people like you."

Well you can! It's a choice.  Don't wait for someone else to do it for you.

Remember the old adage - "If it is to be, it is up to me." One of the great mistakes people make is to wait for somebody else to come and do it. Their mindset is ‘build me up', ‘make me excited', ‘turn me on', ‘fill me with joy', ‘give me an exciting life'. Life just doesn't work that way.

If you wait to get excited until some lucky event happens, guess what? If you wait, what does life do? It waits. And if you hold back until a more appropriate time to get excited, what does life do? It holds back. If you're going to hold back on your enthusiasm, you will need lots of patience because you're going to wait a long time for an exciting life. When you become an excited person, you have an exciting life. When you get excited about your career, you get an exciting career. When you get excited about your relationships, you get exciting relationships.  The quality of your life is your gift to yourself.

Step 3. Act your way into feeling

There are five ways you can act your way into feeling:
'Fake it ‘til you make it' is a popular saying that can have both positive and negative effects.  However, in the context of this topic, if you want to feel excited, act excited.  Dr William Glasser looks at it this way.  "If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behaviour. In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become. Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away." Some practical examples would include such things as:

    • you are afraid, act as if you have courage.
    • If you feel flat, act as if you have energy.
    • If you feel depressed, act as if you are excited.

Your actions will finally give you the feeling you want so "fake joy is better than genuine depression." (Florence Littauer)

‘Forsake it 'til you make it' is all about not letting your feelings control you.

If you are always "feeling" orientated, and live on your feelings and wait until you feel right, it will never happen.  Often, we need to forsake our feelings, put them on the shelf and get on with life. Feelings will follow.

‘Break it 'til you make it' means that you change bad habits and bad relationships.

‘Stake it 'til you make it' is all about claiming ownership and victory.  Declare it publicly. Have someone help you and someone to be accountable to. (eg. every time I get boring you have my permission to kick my butt!!)

‘Take it 'til you make it' means don't quit but endure. There is no gain without pain. Enthusiasm and success require commitment.

Now all of these axioms may seem a bit ‘corny', but the point is to action yourself into feeling.  Act as if you have enough faith to overcome your lack of enthusiasm and then faith will take hold of you.

Step 4. Hang around enthusiastic people

People catch enthusiasm like they catch colds   by getting close to others. It's contagious. For example, energetic people who tend to hang around people who display energy. ("Birds of a feather flock together"). If you want to increase your energy levels, your smile, your excitement, your passion, then hang around like-minded people.

Step 5. Keep Growing

There is a formula which goes like this: Growth = Happiness; Stagnation = Boredom.

Show me someone who is growing and learning and I will show you someone who is happy, excited and enthusiastic.

"So learn something new every day.  Nature has everywhere written her protest against idleness; everything that ceases to struggle, which remains inactive, rapidly deteriorates. It is the struggle toward an ideal, the constant effort to get higher and further, which develops personhood and character". (Source unknown)

Step 6.  Help Others

"One of the most beautiful compensations of life is that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping him/her self." (Emerson) When you begin to help others you get excited about life.  Are you investing time in people? Are you impacting other people's lives? Churchill understood this principle well when he stated that "we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give".

Step 7.  Believe in what you do

Notice how the last four letters of enthusiasm ends with IASM    I Am Sold Myself!

So do you have a purpose? Do you believe in yourself and what you do?  There are four "beliefs" which are well worth believing in to help you maintain a positive attitude.

  • Belief in God - This gives me purpose
  • Belief in self - This gives me confidence
  • Belief in others - This gives me relationships
  • Belief in what I do - This gives me enthusiasm

Step 8.  Buy into your dreams

There is a vast difference between a person with a dream, and a dreamer. The person with a dream talks little but does much.  The dreamer talks much but does little. It's hard to buy into a dream if you don't have one. If you have a dream that is a compelling, consuming force in your life, just watch your enthusiasm for life soar.

In my role as a life coach, I help people develop visions for all areas of their lives. Do you have a vision for your family life, spiritual life, financial life, vocational life, social life, physical/health life and/or your mental life? Remember that these have to be your own visions and dreams.  You can't buy into someone else's dream and you can't give someone a vision for his or her life.  You don't pass on visions. However, if you are leading teams of people, they can "catch your vision".  Visions and dreams can be contagious.

When you invest into your dreams and visions you gain a huge amount of enthusiasm, passion and excitement (see: "The Magic of Believing" by Claude Bristol). There is nothing left to do but bury a person who doesn't have visions or dreams. "Without a vision the people perish." Some people die at 40 and are buried at 80!

Step 9.  Get some goals

Goals are the steps you take toward your dreams and visions. Not having a goal is more to be feared than not reaching a goal. "I would rather attempt to do something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed." (Victor Frankl)

Step 10.  Regularly read and listen to motivational material

"What you will be in five years will be determined by the people you associate with and the books you read." (Charles T. Jones)

Step 11.  Keep visible motivators around you

Continually feed off books, photos, paintings, and pictures that give you a sense of enthusiasm and represent your visions, goals and the people you are helping and impacting!

Are you enthusiastic?

I know from experience, that if you are struggling with depression or you feel that life has really thrown you a curve, it is really difficult to be and stay enthusiastic.   But at the end of the day, it is a choice.  We can either blame others for our ‘lot' in life and be victims, or we can choose self-responsibility, decide to ‘make a difference' and get on with life.  One way to do that is to decide to be enthusiastic.  If it's a challenge for you, then read the above steps on a daily basis and just take one of them each week and practice them daily.  Amazing things will happen to you and the people you associate with.  You will have personal impact.  Take a step back and ask yourself what would an enthusiastic person look like (alert, alive, vibrant and passionate), sound like (convincing, motivating, confident, encouraging, passionate, optimistic, positive, warm), and feel like? (Fulfilled, aligned, a contributor, vessel to be used, sure, confident, energetic, empowered, optimistic.) How many of these words best depict you?  Add your own words to the list.

A final word about enthusiasm

Life is really simple in one respect, in that life is energy. It is our use of energy that has helped to create the circumstances that determines the situations we find ourselves living in. So if we want to change our lives, we have to change our energy. Put a little more energy into your world (maybe a lot more). Let yourself get a little excited (maybe a lot more excited) and your whole world can be changed.

If you're bored with your career and your career isn't working, you're just not excited about it. If your relationships aren't working, you're probably not excited about them. And if you're not healthy, you're not excited about health. Whatever you get excited about, gets excited about you. Whatever you get excited about, you will draw into your life. Whatever you're enthusiastic about, you will attract into your life. So if you'd like to improve every corner of your world, start putting out some excited enthusiastic energy, beginning today.

A concluding observation

These eleven steps to enthusiasm are behavioural and can be learned and practiced as a result of the proactive choices we make.  My caution is that however well we may learn and practice these steps, enthusiasm must become a natural dimension of who we are.  There needs to be total alignment between our actions and our character. No deviations. Fake enthusiasm will never last nor will it be respected, valued and useful. True enthusiasm and passion is more than emotion and feeling. It is the outward manifestation of our spiritual inner core and will become a natural expression of our very being when our life is in alignment with our life's purpose.  And what is my purpose in life? - ‘Igniting Enthusiasm'.

Hot Tips!

  • Read all of these steps daily
  • Take one of them each week and practise it daily to make an amazing difference to your personal impact.
  • Observe the positive changes in your life after 11 weeks
  1. Understand the value of enthusiasm
  2. Take responsibility for your own enthusiasm
  3. Act your way into feeling
  4. Hang around enthusiastic people
  5. Keep growing
  6. Help others
  7. Believe in what you do
  8. Buy into your dreams
  9. Get some goals
  10. Regularly read and listen to motivational material
  11. Keep visible motivators around you

And remember, People can accomplish almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm.


Edward Gifford is Founder and Principal of The On-Purpose Life Academy, a Life Coaching Franchise established to empower personal leadership and to help people and organisations live on-purpose.


Acknowledgement is given to Dr John Maxwell, INJOY LIFE CLUB